All Roads to the White House Run Through Iowa

President Obama spent three full days in the Hawkeye State and Mitt Romney sent his newly announced Vice president there on his first solo campaign stop. Byron York builds on Karl Rove’s 3-2-1 strategy and targets Iowa as the final domino to fall for Romney to win the White House:

To judge by recent campaign activity, if Romney is fortunate to make it to the brink of electoral victory, the major battle for those last few electoral votes could be in the state where it all started: Iowa. “I believe Iowa is the key to the presidency,” says Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa social conservative group the Family Leader. “Our six electoral votes will be crucial.”

Of course, for months leading up to January’s GOP caucuses, Iowa was home to some of the most anti-Romney conservatives in the GOP. Many Iowa Republicans tried Michele Bachmann, and then Rick Perry, and then Herman Cain, and then Newt Gingrich, and then Rick Santorum, who beat Romney by a handful of votes. Feelings about Romney didn’t change overnight. But they’ve changed now. “The desire to get Barack Obama out of the White House is enough, and now the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket has been motivation to get people not only to vote but to volunteer and work,” says Matt Strawn, former head of the Iowa GOP who is now running the Republican group GOPAC’s operations in Iowa.

Vander Plaats, who backed Santorum in the primaries, recently held a Family Leadership Summit in Waukee, featuring Santorum along with Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry. “We had about 1,200 of the most influential conservatives in Iowa, and they were excited,” says Vander Plaats. “They were excited about getting rid of Obama, excited about Ryan being on the ticket.” And if they have any lingering doubts about Romney, they’ve been put aside in the effort to beat Obama.

Obama has helped turn Iowa into a Republican state. Strawn remembers his first day as head of the state GOP, when there were 113,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Iowa. Now, there are 20,000 more Republicans than Democrats. Still, Strawn calls Iowa “the absolute purest of tossups.” “There’s no question the opportunity exists for Romney to close the deal with those Iowans who voted for Obama the last time but are willing to vote against him now,” he says. “But the case still has to be made.”

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